You CAN Teach an Old Dog, New Tricks!

By Lakecia Carter, PMP

There is a familiar quote that says “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”. I think it has two meanings: the inability to learn something new or the inability to teach those who won’t learn. I don’t believe these statements are true about most people. In this article, the term ‘old dog’ is not about an older person.  “Old dogs” are mindsets, behaviors, or practices that have been around for too long. Oftentimes, we are challenged with leading change in an environment that may be resistant to change.  It can be intimidating but there are 3 principles that may help you face this challenge head-on:

Prudence: Don’t be too eager to teach your new tricks

Subject matter experts take a lot of pride in what they know. If anyone feels that you will threaten or dismiss their knowledge, it will cause them to disengage. Show equal interest in learning as you do in teaching others. Spend time observing, listening and learning before you take the leap!

Perspective: Use what you don’t know to everyone’s benefit

Sometimes very knowledgeable people cannot see the forest for the trees. They may be so deep in the details that they miss the big picture. That’s where you come in. You can see things in a much broader perspective. You don’t need to have all the answers. You just need to ask the right questions.

Patience: Don’t get discouraged because it takes time

It takes time to build trust and credibility in any new environment. No matter how much education or experience we have, we need to prove our value. Remain positive during your ‘trial period’ and in time, your team will embrace your ideas and follow your lead!

By applying these principles, not only can you teach an old dog new tricks, you can learn a few old tricks too. It’s a win-win for you and your team!


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